The Hubble Space Telescope has captured some dramatic pictures of a cosmic eruption that’s been going on for 170 years.
The red, white and blue gases can be sheen shooting out of Eta Carinae, one of the Milky Way’s most ‘petulant’ nebula.
These new images from Nasa are the latest shots of the firework display that started with the star’s ‘Great Eruption’ in the 1840s.
The picture, taken by Nasa’s Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, reveals the ultraviolet-light glow of magnesium embedded in warm gas (shown in blue), which could help scientists better understand the unique star’s unpredictable behaviour.
The largest member of a double-star system, Eta Carinae weighs 150 times our sun’s mass.
Astronomers think the doomed super-massive star swallowed up its smaller brother in the violent blast leaving strange-looking ‘lobes’ of hot gas surrounding the system.
The eruption turned Eta Carinae into our sky’s second brightest star for more than a decade with mariners using it to navigate the southern seas at night.
The star has since faded and is now barely visible to the unaided eye, but the fireworks keep coming.
The Hubble telescope also funded by the European Space Agency has been studying them over the past 25 years.
Dr Nathan Smith, at the University of Arizona and the Hubble program’s lead investigator, said: ‘We’re excited by the prospect that this type of ultraviolet magnesium emission may also expose previously hidden gas in other types of objects that eject material, such as protostars or other dying stars.
‘Only Hubble can take these kinds of pictures.’
The show’s finale will come when the stellar monster explodes as a supernova and dies. And this may have happened already with the beams from 7,500 light-years away yet to reach earth.
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